Don't Let Your Customers Treat Scanners Like Commodities
All scanners are not created equal. Increase your value-add by helping your customers choose the right scanner for their applications.
As the production scanner market matures, more vendors are entering the fray. This includes vendors of digital copier machines, whose high-end offerings now include scanning features. All this competition has helped drive down the price of production document scanners. When you add in Internet distributors, who are marketing scanners directly to end users, it is becoming more of a challenge than ever for VARs and systems integrators to prevent their customers from considering scanners a commodity.
So, how can resellers maintain their margins on scanners? Selling solutions is the obvious answer. "The integration of an imaging system can involve combining some 30 hardware and software components," says Rich McAllister, product manager for Panasonic Document Imaging Company (Secaucus, NJ). "If users want to be sure their scanners will work with the rest of their system, they should be ready to pay for a reseller's expertise."
Carry More Than One Line
Part of a solution involves matching the right scanner with the right application. "VARs have to be careful not to fall in love with a single scanner and recommend it to all their customers," says McAllister. "Resellers should be flexible enough to carry a couple of different lines, maybe one for each vertical they sell into."
There are a number of features trickling down from the upper range of the production scanning market to the mid and lower (sub-$10,000) range. These include image enhancement, color scanning, color dropout, and advanced compression. "Resellers can expect to continue seeing higher speeds, greater reliability, and greater price/performance ratios from their production scanners," says McAllister. "However, they need to check rated performance. All scanner vendors do not measure performance the same way. For example, there are different ways that dots-per-inch (dpi) benchmarks can be calculated."
Determine User's Duty Cycle
Scott Francis, senior product line manager for scanners at Fujitsu (San Jose, CA), says a VAR's expertise can help an end user choose the correct scanner without overpaying for unneeded functionality. "If a customer is only scanning 500 documents per day, that customer does not need a scanner with a duty cycle of 4,000 documents per day," says Francis. "Be aware of as many specifics about an installation as possible before choosing a scanner.
"A bank, for instance, may only be scanning 1,000 pages per day; but they all may need to be scanned between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. This application has very different requirements than one that involves scanning 1,000 pages over an eight-hour day."
Francis notes that it is important for VARs to check the duty cycle of scanners, in addition to their rated speed. "A rated speed will tell you how fast a scanner can go, but does not account for its reliability and durability."
Don't Oversell Color Functionality
McAllister says that color is an area where VARs can protect users from buying too much functionality. "A user that is doing color dropout for forms processing does not need a production color scanner," he says. "Color dropout has been achieved for years by using colored lights installed in the scanner." On the subject of production color scanning, Francis says, "Currently, 10% of the documents that users scan are color. Our low- and mid-range production scanners meet the market demand by scanning color documents at about 1/10 the speed of black-and-white."
Digital Copiers Not Yet Production Factor
Neither Francis nor McAllister has seen digital copiers make an impact on the production scanning market – yet. "Digital copiers are still too light on functionality to affect our market," says McAllister.
Adds Francis, "The operations department is often responsible for purchasing copiers, while IT purchases scanners. More than functionality, this difference in buyer may be preventing digital copiers from entering the production scanner market. However, if scanning and imaging software vendors start partnering with digital copier vendors, it could change the way people think."
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.